Aug. 7 (UPI) — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s visit to meet with victims of the Dayton, Ohio, shooting Wednesday was met with both protests and shows of support.
The Trumps largely stayed out of sight during their trip to Dayton, during which they visited patients at Miami Valley Hospital. Nine people died Sunday in a shooting outside a bar in the city.
“You had God watching,” Trump told one victim, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. “I want you to know we’re with you all the way.”
The president also met with first responders, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, greeted the Trumps when they arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
Whaley and Brown gave a news conference after the meeting, saying the president was comforting to the victims with whom he spoke. The two lawmakers said they pressed Trump for a ban on assault weapons and stronger background checks for gun purchases.
They said he refused to commit to signing a universal background check bill.
“I’m not holding my breath,” Whaley said. “Too often we see inaction, because they’re waiting just for time, to forget that nine people died in Dayton because of a gun that shouldn’t be legal, frankly.”
The New York Times reported about 100 people gathered in a field near the hospital to protest Trump. One told the newspaper that Trump’s language “throws gasoline on the fire,” which leads to violence.
“He feeds on negativity and hate and fear,” Jim Madewell said.
Supporters gathered near the airport and pro-Trump signs were attached to recreational vehicles.
Immediately after the hospital visit, the Trumps left Dayton en route to El Paso, Texas, where they will visit with local leaders and victims from a shooting Saturday that left 22 people dead.
Trump went ahead with the visits despite warnings of protests and critics in both cities. He drew criticism last weekend for what some viewed as a slow response, and again for proposals he made Monday in a national address.
“These are sick people,” he said of the perpetrators. “These are people that are really mentally ill, mentally disturbed. It’s a mental problem.”
Monday, Trump proposed multiple changes as a result of the attacks, including stronger mental health laws to avert future plots among the psychologically ill. He’d also mentioned strengthening firearm background checks.
“I’m looking to do background checks, I think background checks are important,” he said. “I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or a sick people.”
“We are going to come up with something that’s going to be, really, very good. Beyond anything that’s been done so far.”